Last week, I experienced a major shift in my self reflection. It was an event that I have heard referred to numerous times in my therapeutic journey but had never quite understood on personal level. It was one of mourning my lost innocence and recapturing it to be reexperienced now, safely and intentionally. It was quite moving and profound; and marks a transition in my recovery away from just putting out fires.
I have a young preadolescent part of me that is highly sexualized and jaded in regard to males, romance and relationships. She came about as a result of incest and sexual abuse at young ages. Unfortunately, since she was the part of me initiated into sexual coupling and courtships (however inappropriate), her experiences shaped the way I approached romantic and sexual relationships. Her experience that males would only be interested in her sexually created her comfort with less than honorable men and their dysfunctional ways of relating. Seeing this clearly has been very sad and at times I find myself overcome with grief for the sweetness of an innocence that was not allowed to mature naturally. I can finally relate to the term “lost innocence ” and mourn mine.
I am starting the reclamation of my innocence with my preadolescent self. I have not spent a lot of time with younger parts of myself that were exposed to sexual attention as that is harder to bear. For now, I am learning to tune into the faint whispers of preferences and attractions that a young girl, nurtured patiently and safely, goes through in her development to a young woman. I am exploring gender issues and expression as well as socializing styles for both friendship and courtship. It’s kind of exciting.
As a young woman, I imposed a sexist caricature of female sexiness on myself and actively perpetuated exploitative dynamics in my relating with men. I just adopted what I was indoctrinated with by key male figures in my life. Of course,I was profoundly injured emotionally as well as physically in this dangerous farce. It was no wonder, that by my early twenties, I left the heterosexual world, disgusted, to bond intimately with women for 16 years. That and my ensuing return to sexual involvement with men are stories for other posts.
So it is with great tenderness that I am reexamining my young girl self. I am questioning long held assumptions about femininity and courtship. Safety, both emotional as well as physical are paramount to me now. And curiosity is playing a larger role than I would have thought. I am entertaining explorations in personal style and redefining what femininity means to me. Through trial and error, I am finding out how I like to relate to others and laying the groundwork for a vibrant social life; hopefully one which will yield a romantic partner that appreciates me as I am.
I consider myself lucky to be able to reach this level of personal growth. Many (most?) people trudge through life, hobbled by past experiences and by the social demands of a flawed society. Despite their mistakes, I know this level of self realization is what my parents would have wished for me; and I am happy to be blossoming now in this garden of self discovery. So often, we hear of the difficult parts of healing traumas; as the healing movement matures, I hope there are more conversations about this beautiful side to healing – the part where long hidden magical creatures emerge from the depths.